This page contains archived information and may not display perfectly

WRC - Advantage increased as Ott Tänak extends Chile lead


2023 Rally Chile Biobío - Saturday afternoon

Ott Tänak is 47.8 seconds in the clear in his bid to win for the second time in this season’s FIA World Rally Championship.

With nine stages of Rally Chile Biobío complete, the M-Sport Ford World Rally Team driver holds a comfortable margin following another inspired tyre choice.

The Estonian left service in Concepción this morning aboard his Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid with four hard-compound Pirelli tyres and two softs, the only P1 driver to make such a selection.

In contrast with Friday’s fast and open route, Saturday morning’s stages south of Concepción were longer, twistier and much more abrasive. Tyre and speed management proved to be key - and Tänak excelled.

Second-fastest only to championship leader Kalle Rovanperä through the Chivilingo opener, the Estonian blitzed the following stage at Rio Lia by 6.8s as his rivals slowed down to preserve their tyres.

But Tänak had also saved two brand-new hard compound tyres for the pivotal 28.72-kilometre Maria de las Cruces run, which he duly bolted onto the car before setting the pace once again by 7.6s.

Hyundai’s Teemu Suninen, who carried just five tyres compared with Tänak’s six, fell to third overall behind Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid driver Elfyn Evans with his cautious approach to Chivilingo. But unlike Evans, who relied solely on soft compound rubber, three of Suninen’s tyres were hard.

That proved to be decisive in the last stage, where Evans suffered two tyre delaminations and plummeted to fourth. He dropped behind Suninen as well as the Finn’s team-mate Thierry Neuville, who ended 13.8s ahead of the Welshman despite a damaged tyre on SS7.

Rovanperä started too aggressively and, after winning SS7, was forced to nurse his Toyota’s soft tyres to the loop’s completion. The 22-year-old sits more than 40s behind Evans in fifth overall and his hopes of wrapping up a second drivers’ world title with two rounds to spare look increasingly slim.

Just like team-mate Evans, Takamoto Katsuta was another driver to encounter two tyre delaminations in Maria de las Cruces. The Japanese remained seventh overall, however, comfortably clear of Rally1 rookie Grégoire Munster.

Not even an early-morning spin could prevent Oliver Solberg from overtaking Sami Pajari to lead FIa WRC2 by 16.7s. The pair, both driving Toksport-prepared Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 cars, sit eighth and ninth overall while local ace Alberto Heller completed the top 10 despite also experiencing tyre dramas in his Puma.

SS10, the rerun of the Chivilingo test, is due to begin at 14h57 local time.